Is Sucking Up Bad In a Job Interview?

I know this isn’t the most burning question, but I recently had a comment about sucking up in an interview from a delightful 16-year-old  reader named Livi. And it got me thinking.

Livi applied for an entry-level job and was wondering how her interview went. She wrote:

I was interviewed for a very easy, entry level job (movie theater concessionist/usher) and I had good answers too! but I don’t know. everything was going good, they seemed like to me (I  guess I did kind of “suck up” one time)…

And later in her comment she asked:

…anyway I guess my question is, since I didn’t really have any questions at the end and I may have been a “suck up” and I now remember things that I  should’ve said at first, do you think they will call me back…ever?

I just loved the energy that came through even in her comments and hope she got the job. I responded to her concern about follow up questions, but also addressed the issue of sucking up:

BTW…sucking up would mean you’re being phony. If that’s true…don’t.  Just be yourself. But if you think smiling and being nice is sucking up…please don’t worry. People are looking to hire people they’d like to work with day in and day out. So reliable, competent, intelligent and above all NICE is very important.

I want to emphasize the importance of not coming off as someone who is saying things only because you think that’s what THEY want you to say. I can tell you from my own experience as an interviewer that’s a great way to lose an interviewer…and the job. You come off as distanced, unnatural, and most of all someone they are not sure they can trust.

So where is the line with sucking up?

There is a level of what some might call “sucking up” that’s absolutely fine in interviews and in life.  Listening carefully to the other person and showing you care about what they say. Agreeing with them…especially if you really do. Watching their reactions for cues about what to expand on and what to drop. Finding a sincere and positive way to tell them about yourself and how you can bring your best skills to the company, while showing real enthusiasm about the company and the job in question.

And if it’s a little more enthusiasm than you really feel, that’s ok.  😉

If you’re curious, you can see Livi’s follow-up comment explaining a little more about what she meant here.

Would love to know what you think about Livi’s concerns about sucking up and the practice in general. What does it mean to you and when does someone cross the line?

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. It is most important to ‘be yourself.’ Every job has its stresses and eventually your real personality will surface at work. There’s nothing wrong with a sincere compliment. It’s important to follow through with a thank you. Even if you don’t get the job, your actions tell others who you are and whether or not you value others. Being ‘nice’ in today’s world sets you apart from the crowd.

  2. This is a REALLY interesting question. I had never phrased it that way in my mind.

    I agree with both of you that being yourself is your first and foremost responsibility! Its also the best way to get hired for a job that will be a truly great fit.

    But, I also agree that a little more enthusiasm than you might normally have, generally won’t hurt.

    Thanks for the fascinating question!

  3. Onlineshoppergal says:

    I attended an interview on Thursday, it’s now a week later. I thought I’d give it another week before calling the person who interviewed me to ask if someone has been appointed yet. I asked about their timeline during the interview and was told ‘we’re looking to appoint someone quickly, what is your availabilty?’.

    After the interview I sent an email to the person who interviewed me expressing how impressed I was with the organisation that she represented, and that I felt that my skills and background would be a good fit.

    My question is, when I phone in a week, do you think it is ok for me to express that I was impressed with the organisation, but that not having someone call or mail me about the outcome changes my perception of the organisaion?

    My husband thinks that I shouldn’t even bother to call them. But you know what, I bothered to haul a*se down there for the interview, frankly I think they should be bothered to get back to me.

    What do you think

  4. I would call, it indicates you interest in the position. If you get the job, which I hope for you, then great, if you don’t, then move on.

  5. Someone once told me that when in job search never expect a return e-mail or phone call. (Then you’ll never be disappointed.) When I was in job search I found it helpful to keep a distance from my personal (negative) feelings if people weren’t responding as I’d like.

    If you desire the job, then call until you reach the hiring manager in person. (You do not have to leave a message or voice mail every time.) If you do leave a voice mail, make sure the tone of your message is professional, polite and upbeat. Do not show your impatience.

    I really believe that it never hurts to always take the high road. You might not get this job, but — you never know — if you leave a good impression, you could be considered for something else in the future.

  6. Really enjoying the discussion. My favorite part of posting an article is when it takes on a life of its own and generates fun thoughts and insights.

    Good point about the extra enthusiasm, Rebecca. And agree totally about the high road, Deb. Job search isn’t just today…someone you meet now may be the key to a job later on. Plus, it’s just good karma. 😉

  7. Ooops…sorry annaslace. Meant to thank you for your sound advice. Please feel free to add your voice any time!

  8. What do you think of the question asked by an applicant “What can I do to help make your job easier?” or worse yet, “What is one thing I can do to help you get an ‘outstanding’ on your next performance review?” Meaning, those questions were being asked to the supervisor of the vacancy.

  9. Hi Jason!

    Curious what you think of them!

    For me, especially for the first question, it depends on the situation (type of job, level, type of company, etc.) and how it is asked. I may have even asked something like the first one in an interview myself…except maybe in slightly different words. It has a nice intent, if not the greatest question. The second is kind of annoying to me, I must admit; and I’d suggest people not ask that in any way, shape or form. But I wouldn’t kick them out of the running just for that.

    What I really think is that maybe the person saw these questions on some career advice blog and decided to use them. There’s a lot of iffy advice out there, so I just hope job seekers think carefully and weigh all the sides of it before taking any advice – including mine!

    So what’s your opinion, since you asked? I’m assuming you think they’re sucking up?

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